Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"To hitch your rickety wagon to the flickering star of another fallible human being--what an insane thing to do. What a burden, and what a gift."
Ada Calhoun's frank, eye-opening, and deeply thought-provoking Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give truly sucked me in from the first page. I'm not a huge fan of books that give marriage advice because in reality, I've found them to usually be condescending in nature or too "prim and proper." Ada Calhoun shattered all of those ideas I had about marriage books with this blunt but real look at what marriage truly is all about.
Ada's writing style is engaging and exciting. She weaves her own anecdotes with advice from experts and experiences of her friends carefully together. In a way, each chapters is its own standalone story, but when you finish the book, all of the chapters weave seamlessly together into a quilt of knowledge about married life. I felt like Ada put into words so many things I feel as a married woman but can't quite express--or don't have the courage to. She is honest and raw in her revelations, letting the reader into her marriage from a unique vantage point and allowing us all to benefit from her wisdom and her mistakes.
I love that she never has a "know it all" attitude about marriage. She doesn't claim to be an absolute expert. Instead, she presents information and various perspectives, allowing the reader to digest it at his or her pace. I could connect with so many of the stories in the book and loved the humorous asides presented.
I also think Ada Calhoun approaches marriage from a courageous perspective. Few are willing to admit some of the difficult realities she does while also holding the stance that marriage is worth it. I love that she doesn't claim marriage is all rosy, but she also doesn't claim that marriage is worthless, horrible, or hopeless. She strikes the perfect balance, showing the reader that all marriages are a struggle, but are also worth it. She gives the reader permission to be imperfect while also inspiring the reader to work hard at marriage.
There are so many beautiful quotes in this book that made me reflect on my own relationship. I really liked the section on J.R. R. Tolkien and the phrase "companions in shipwreck not guiding stars." What a powerful statement and reminder; the book is filled with tons of valuable phrases like these.
Ada Calhoun presents her ideas in a skillfully crafted story that doesn't feel "preachy" or "overly academic." Instead, I felt like I was talking to a close but wise friend about love, marriage, and all of the things so many people are afraid to say.
Thank you, Ada Calhoun, for being brave enough to say the things about married life so many shy away from. Thank you for giving us permission to accept that we may never be the perfect wife, husband, or couple, but that is perfectly beautiful and okay in its own way.
I recommend this book for anyone who is married, has been married, or is considering marriage. I think this should be a wedding gift for every newly married couple because it is just that good, real, and important.
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Nose scrunches, general disgust, raised eyebrows, and repulsion.
These are sometimes the reactions when I say I'm a romance author.
I understand the genre isn't for everyone. Still, over the past three years as a published author in the romance genre, I'm come to learn there are so many unfair stigmas about romance reads. Some automatically assume whips and chains are a part of your stories, Fifty Shades forever changing the way we think of romance.
Others have told me they only read "real literature" or only like books with "complex characters," so romance isn't for them.
Some simply say they hate cheesy works and stories when eyeing my books.
When I'm met with these responses to the romance genre, I smile politely. Like I said, I understand the genre isn't for everyone.
But as both a writer in the genre and an avid reader of it, I know these stigmas and stereotypes are so often untrue.
My First Love Affair with the Genre
When I first decided to write a novel, I knew without a doubt it would be in the romance genre because I'd fallen in love with it years before.
In junior high, Nicholas Sparks's stories became my obsession, my own love affair of sorts. I adored the way he could weave together two seemingly different lives, two broken people, into a single, working unit. I loved reading about their journey, their first kiss, their connection uncovered. I loved the way he could make the most complex, frightening human emotion seem to make sense.
Thus, putting pen to paper, I knew love stories were what I wanted to write. I wanted to explore the depth of romantic connections. I wanted to uncover romance where there seemed to be hopelessness. I wanted to help broken characters find their way to redemption down a rocky road of love.
I knew when I started writing romance there was a certain stigma about it, but I didn't worry about that. I worried about telling my stories, stories of complexity and emotion. Stories of reality and harsh truths. My romances aren't always about skipping into the sunset and finding a simple solution to life's problems. My romances are about the struggles we as humans face when trying to meld two different lives into one. It's about the obstacles that threaten not only our love, but our identities.
The Truth About Romance
Romance stories aren't cheesy, easy reads or lighthearted, unrealistic sagas.
They aren't all about abs and sexual encounters.
They aren't all about boy meets girl, love, marriage, and happily-ever-after.
As a reader and writer in the genre, I've come to learn that romance is a broad genre with so many nuances in its offerings. There are stories of escape, stories of depth, and stories of gut-wrenching pain.
I know no matter how many articles are written about the value of the romance genre and the depth of its literary value, there will always be stigma. Romance will forever be pictured as shirtless men parading women into the sunsets of forever.
Still, I want to make it clear: I will never apologize for writing romance. No matter how many sighs or shriveled noses I see at my work, I will stand proud knowing I write in this genre. I will never back down from telling the stories I love, even if some don't want to take them seriously. I will never stop defending the genre for its literary value, it's revelation of deep human truths, and its beauty at highlighting one of the most misunderstood yet valued concepts of the human journey: Love.
To learn more about my dedication to genuine, sweet love stories and to get three free chapters of my most recent release, sign-up for my mailing list:http://bit.ly/2u42BjUbit.ly/2u42BjU
By: Caleb Anderson
Caleb developed an opiate addiction after being in a car accident. He’s in recovery today and wants to inspire others to overcome their addictions. He co-created RecoveryHope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families.
Read on to hear his amazing advice for couples affected by addiction.
Alcoholism and drug addiction negatively affect relationships. When a spouse is an addict, the couple likely has poor or absent communication. The addict may be physically or psychologically abusive, unfaithful, or overly controlling. The addiction may create financial strain. Overall, the situation is stressful and lonely for the spouse that isn’t suffering from the addiction. If your spouse is an addict, you can try to find him or her treatment and find ways to heal together. But you also need to know when to walk away.
While you can’t force your spouse into treatment, there are things you can do to help him or her realize the addiction is out of control and treatment is necessary. For starters, stop enabling your spouse. The only way for him or her to realize there’s an issue is to experience the consequences of the addiction in the fullest extent. If work or a family event is missed, don’t make excuses.
When talking about the addiction and your concerns, be specific. Instead of saying, “You need to stop drinking because it’s unhealthy,” say, “Being drunk prevents you from attending dinner, and it’s hurting our marriage.” To that point, discuss the negative consequences specific to your marriage. Tell your spouse what will happen if he or she doesn’t seek help, but only say it if you mean it.
Have other family and friends bring up the addiction with you. The more people involved, the bigger the impact, but the individuals should be people your spouse knows and trusts. Carefully time these meetings when your spouse is sober and calm. Ideally, it should be soon after an addiction-related issue has occurred so that a consequence is fresh in your spouse’s mind.
When you’re ready to mend the relationship, it’s advisable to get help from a counselor or therapist. Going through the steps to heal together will be difficult, but a trained professional can help the two of you to stay on track and achieve success. Even with help, it will be stressful and take a period of adjustment. You may need couples therapy along with one-on-one sessions.
Outside of therapy, there are things you can work on to move your relationship into a healthier place. First, treat your marriage like it’s a new relationship. Everything changes after addiction issues, including you, your spouse, and your relationship. Go on dates again. Whether it’s once a month or once a week, make sure you have time alone together to bond.
Having a healthy, positive living environment is also important in order to promote sobriety. This could mean finding a new place to live to boost your spouse’s recovery, or visiting with your spouse while they temporarily live in a halfway house if they are finishing up treatment.
When disagreements arise, try to stay positive and avoid fights. If you need to take a break from the argument, then do so. Some issues are best discussed with your therapist, who’s an impartial third party. Every day, work on forgiving your spouse, but accept that it takes time to gain new trust.
Calling it Quits
Deciding to stay or leave is not an easy decision to make. Despite knowing that you’ve tried everything, that your self-esteem is shot, and that you’ve lost ample amounts of time trying to fix your spouse, you still love him or her. You worry what will happen to your spouse if you leave. Ending the marriage may make you feel like you’ve failed. However, consider the cost of staying. Your self-esteem, mental health, sense of well-being, and even physical health could be comprised.
Abuse in a relationship should never be tolerated, whether it’s physical or psychological. Consider leaving if your spouse lies, cheats, or steals. If your partner continues to worsen despite your best efforts, it may be time to leave. If you have kids, consider how the addiction affects them and if staying is worse than leaving. Do you feel supported, appreciated, and valued? If not, it may be time to walk away.
Remember that your life is also being negatively affected by your spouse’s addiction. There are ways for you to help your spouse to get treatment he or she needs, and if your spouse works on maintaining sobriety, the two of you can work on healing your relationship. However, you have to know when it’s time to walk away. You deserve a happy and fulfilling life.
Why It's So Important To Snap Every Photograph You Can
This week, I did something archaic, something I rarely do anymore: I had pictures printed.
We live in a world where it seems every moment of our lives are documented, our phones capturing photos for Instagram, selfies, and videos of life-changing moments and normal moments. However, over the years, I've found my scrapbook pages empty, picture frames sitting bare, and physical photographs being a rarity.
Today, though, I got my packet of pictures in the mail. I printed pictures from the past decade and even beyond, gathering all the files from my computer. I discovered that there's something about physical pictures you lose on your phone. I flipped through the memories, the moments that have made my life, and I couldn't help but smile.
Most of all, I realized how happy I am that I or a family member snapped all of those moments. I'm happy we forced the family to pose, that I made us stop and pause for a minute to capture the moment, big or small.
Flipping through pictures of small moments and big moments, I realized that these are the moments that have defined me. These are the moments of smiles and of love. At the time, I didn't realize these moments would be so important. For some of them, they felt like just another regular day. Now, though, with the passage of time, I've come to appreciate how every moment, every smile, every memory becomes so important.
These are moments I would have overlooked in my memory bank or not even remembered. Moments at a local park on an autumn day with my parents, laughing in our ponchos on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. Pictures of Chad and I at a picnic before we were married, pictures of Henry hanging out in the backyard.
Life is not always about the flashy moments or once-in-a-lifetime travels. We don't need photographs to remember those. Life is about the people we share our moments with. It's about the smiles in our hometown, it's about the regular moments of family, of fun, and of love. It's about the moments that seem so small but really, in the scheme of things, become so big.
These are the moments we need to remember. These are the moments that we will someday look back at and smile.
So next time you think about setting the camera down and walking by a moment, don't.
Next time your kids are jumping around and the dog is barking and you think, "Is this picture really worth it?" Know that it is.
Next time you feel embarrassed about asking everyone to pose or you think that a moment can't be that important to take a photo of, take the photo anyway.
And the next time you're having just an average day at home with your loved ones, know you should take the photograph.
Our lives go by so fast, and we don't always realize that they're blurring right on past us. But the photographs of our memories, big and small, sometimes are the reminder we need to slow down, to smile, and to be thankful for the beautiful life we've been given.
Finding a Magical Love: Sometimes You Just Know
16 years ago today, I was the nerdy, awkward thirteen-year-old walking into the junior high dance with her friends. I was wearing a red tank-top from Deb, my favorite store, and some tan shorts. I had on my wedge sandals that made me feel so cool, and I think I was sporting some glitter eye-makeup. It was the end of the school year, and our band trip to Kennywood was the next day. I had no idea that the dance I was going to would become a full-circle moment years later.
You were the 13-year-old free spirit with more detentions racked up than I could count. You were reckless when it came to school and the class clown. But there was something about you that intrigued me, that made me think we could be good for each other. You made me laugh. You got me. Even then, you were always in my corner.
That night, though, sixteen years ago, everything changed. The slow songs came on, the ones that in 7th grade, we still didn't want to admit we were waiting for. We tried to pretend we liked standing in the corners or dancing with our friends. We tried to pretend boys still had cooties, and you tried to pretend you were too cool to dance with girls.
That night, though, you broke the rules. You crossed the dance floor and asked me to dance. You carefully put your hands on my waist and tried not to stand too close. It was humid in that dance, and I can still remember worrying my bangs were sweaty and gross.
But with Faith Hill's song about magic floating in the air swirling around us, something clicked. I knew something about us dancing there in the middle of all the crazy junior high kids laughing and carrying on, was just right. There were so many people around us, but we didn't notice. Suddenly, I didn't feel like the awkward girl trying to find her place. I felt like everything was just right. I felt like we were just right.
I had no way of knowing that years down the road, glitter eye-makeup would no longer be cool. I didn't know I'd laugh someday about my obsession with butterfly clips or that Deb would close in our mall.
Most of all, sixteen years ago, I had no way of knowing that we'd have this life together we do now. I had no way of knowing that I'd marry the boy who asked me to dance, and that I'd be thinking about that red tank-top and wedge sandals sitting on our sofa, surrounded by a beautiful life we've built together.
I had no way of knowing that over a decade later, we'd dance to Faith Hill's "Breathe" for another first dance...our first dance as husband and wife. What a full-circle moment that was, with everything fading away just like it did that seventh-grade night.
Then again, maybe I did know. Because even then, even at 13, we both knew that whatever it was between us wasn't something everyone had. We knew there was something once-in-a-lifetime about the way we just got each other, the way we made it work. We knew that even though we were so different in so many ways, we were the same, too.
Looking back, I think even then, we both knew the life we could build together could be something magical.
And it is. It truly is.
To the boy who asked me to dance sixteen years ago and is now my husband, I loved you even then. What a beautiful gift it is to find the one for you at such a young age...even if I was wearing glittery eye makeup and butterfly clips.
In my fuzzy gray sweatpants and a sloppy sweatshirt, I snuggle into my spot on the sectional, remote in hand and a coffee on the end table. A few cats curl up in my lap and our mastiff Henry finds his spot among his favorite collection of toys as I make the big decision—will it be Jane the Virgin, Reign, or Nashville tonight?
Meanwhile, my husband plops himself onto his computer chair in front of his beloved computer games, waiting for the oven timer to beckon him forth for his chicken patty or frozen pizza. It’s a Saturday night and we’re under 30, but you wouldn’t know it by our schedule. The wild life of the 20-something isn’t quite our scene—we’re content tucked in at home with our favorite things.
Although lazy days at home are essential and envy-worthy, strings of them have led us to somewhat humdrum, introverted lives. Other than some trips to the beach and a few local events, our scrapbook of memories mostly sits empty.
This is a far-cry from our dating years, when we went countless unique places. Our scrapbook is filled with memories from museums, art installations, plays, concerts, zoos, and aquariums. We can flip through the pages and say, “remember when” with smiles and laughs about the experiences. Most of these trips were school sponsored or college sponsored, but the point is the memories we have from those trips are memories we used as a foundation for our connection.
They are the moments we look back on with a smile. They weave our connected history.
Achieving our Bucket List
At 29, we’ve come to realize that it isn’t really the traveling part or where you go—it’s the fact you’re doing something new together. Looking back over the years, the times we got out of our comfy clothes and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone to try something new are the times we remember with a smile.
Thus, with 30 looming over us, we felt a need to change it up this year. I know age is just a number, but there is something symbolic about the shift from the 20s to the 30s. I want the shift to be memorable. I want this to be a year we can fill our scrapbook. I want it to be a year we talk about for the next decade.
So this year, we’ve vowed to try new things. We’ve made an achievement list inspired by my husband’s love for gaming. We’ve included big goals and trips that probably won’t happen, but we’ve also set small realistic goals.
We’ve picked local places we’ve never been. We agreed to do some sort of volunteer work together this year. We’ve vowed to go inner tubing and horseback riding. I agreed to finally get my tattoo this year. We’ve talked about memories that will fill our scrapbook and give us a sense of adventure.
Adventure on a Budget
Because, like so many, we’re on a budget, our list isn’t extravagant. We don’t own a yacht, and an impromptu trip to Tahiti, although adventurous, isn’t in the cards for us right now. We are small town, simple people who have never been out of the country together and probably never will be. I’ve come to learn, though, that adventure doesn’t have to equate to an expensive, budget-blowing venture.
Some of our favorite adventures were super cheap and super close by. I don’t think you have to be a world traveler to find adventure. Adventure takes on its own form for everyone. We’re challenging ourselves this year to find our own.
In short, we want to fill our year with new memories because at the end of it, isn’t that what life is all about? At 29, I think we’ve finally realized that the amount of shoes in your closet, the amount of video games on your shelf, and the amount of hours you’ve logged watching Netflix don’t create a life. It’s the true connection of exploring this huge world together that will be something we can look back on.
Are we doing a great job at adhering to our newfound sense of adventure? Not particularly. This past weekend, we checked one of the more luxurious items off our list—we went for our first couple’s massage and added a new memory to our scrapbook. Still, on an average week, it’s hard to break your homebody habits, and Netflix is a beckoning siren’s song.
Adult responsibilities, stresses, and exhaustion all tempt us to leave the scrapbook blank for one more year. There’s nothing wrong with a few lazy days, and we know our list probably won’t get completely finished. Nonetheless, we’re getting out and making as many memories as we can. We’re saying “yes” to more invitations even when we’re tempted to say “no.” We’re finding that life isn’t necessarily built sitting on a couch eating snacks. Life is about finding, exploring, trying, experiencing, and finding. Life is about building moments together so that someday, when we look back on this life we’ve had together, we can say, “Do you remember when…”
I think we’ve figured out that making memories with those you love the most is how you truly find an adventurous, fulfilling life full of joy.
I married the funny guy.
I didn’t necessarily mean for it to happen . In 7th grade, though, he stole my heart with his class clown tendencies and ability to make me laugh. I can still picture the day I, Miss Goody Two-Shoes, got in trouble in history class because my now-husband made a joke about the teacher’s drawing on the board.
Since the beginning, he’s known just what to say to make me laugh, even if I don’t like to admit it. He’s the one at parties and gatherings telling stories to get the group laughing. He’s the one I can’t stay angry at because he knows just how to soften my mood with a punchline.
Being married to the funny guy isn’t always glamorous. Frequently, I’m asking him if he’s capable of taking anything seriously. Still, I must admit there are benefits, as with anything in life, to marrying a guy with a killer sense of humor.
1. Life is hard. Laughter makes it easier.
Bills, work, illnesses, adult drudgery—growing up isn’t easy. Life is filled with tough moments and hardships. Having a man by my side who can lighten the mood, who can make me truly laugh even on the worst day has helped alleviate the melancholic undertones life sometimes provides. Even when I’m crying because of a terrible day, he knows how to make me smile and realize things aren’t completely awful.
2. He is often the life of the party.
As an introvert, this is a benefit for me. I’m the girl at parties who is awkwardly admiring the cheese platter in an attempt to avoid small talk. My husband is the one steering me toward a group of new people as he enchants them with his hilarious re-tellings of the time we got lost on the way to the zoo, the time I choked on burnt pork chops, or the time he tried Pilates for the first time. Having a man who’s able to direct our social interactions and brighten even the dullest party is a plus for a socially awkward person like me.
3. He makes even the mundane task exciting.
Last week, we had two vet appointments in the same week—these things happen when you are a bit of a cat collector. Even the boring task of waiting in the reception area for an hour was bearable because he was cracking jokes the entire time. From weird jokes at Walmart to the dentist’s office, I’m never bored thanks to his ability to find humor in even the most tedious task.
4. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.
My horrific cooking and navigation skills are often the source of my husband’s joke-telling. Still, he’s also not afraid to poke fun at himself. He’s not so full of himself he can’t take a joke or even make a joke about himself. His humility in the form of humor makes him down-to-earth. We never feel in competition with each other because neither of us has an ego so serious we can’t laugh at our own blunders.
5. It’s hard to stay mad at him.
When we’re fighting, this doesn’t always feel like a benefit. Nonetheless, his ability to crack any argument with a joke is a gift. Even when I’m so mad at him I can’t even breath, he is able to assuage the situation with a one-liner or a ridiculous joke.
6. He can turn even your worst moment into an amateur comedy routine.
I’m a major worrier and perfectionist. When I’m devastated about a simple mistake or feeling like my life is over, he’s there to make even the worst thing seem like a joke.
7. No one ever feels awkward in our home.
He makes everyone feel comfortable by making a joke out of any awkward situation. One time, we had friends over who had brought a bottle of wine. It was right after we moved in, and I was humiliated because we didn’t own a wine cork. Instead of trying to avoid the conversation, Chad just owned it and made a huge joke about it. Even the most awkward moments are smoothed over because he’s able to help everyone laugh it off.
8. He doesn’t get mad about the little things.
A flat tire because I backed into the curb.
A cracked patio table because I left the umbrella up.
A ruined hardwood floor because I left a wet mop on it.
I have made my share of mistakes, especially when it comes to household tasks. I struggle with being a grownup, as does my husband. While some men get frustrated over wasted money or household issues or broken items, my husband doesn’t. He sees the humor in everything from a shattered glass table to the time the refrigerator door handle popped off in his hand. His ability to shrug off the small stuff—even when it doesn’t feel small—helps us keep perspective in life and be thankful for the things we’re blessed with.
9. His humor is a gift in a sometimes bleak world.
It’s not just me who benefits from his optimism and ability to laugh off the small stuff. I see his interactions with everyone and how he brightens so many days. From a sick relative recovering from illness to an elderly lady in the grocery store, his gift for humor is shared with so many people. I see the way he can bring a smile to a devastated face or make someone laugh who hasn’t had much going right. His ability to make others smile is something I admire in him.
10. Looks, strength, and even smarts can fade—a good sense of humor usually doesn’t.
Muscles might soften with age, and even intelligence can dim as the years go by. However, I know his sense of humor will probably be going strong, even when we’re old and gray. Even when I can’t remember every story anymore or when our lives are winding down to the final chapters, I know I won’t be afraid or regretful. Instead, I’ll be smiling at his jokes, at his ability to see the humor in it all, up until the very end.
Marrying the funny guy doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of blissful happiness or easy travels through the treacherous journey called life. It does, however, promise a lifetime of smiling even when you feel like crying, of finding the humor in the most difficult hurdles, and of having fun when it seems impossible.
I think these are gifts we can only hope to have in marriage, in love, and in life in general.
My husband is amazing. Seriously.
For our five-year anniversary, he got me tickets to go see Keith Urban in Hershey, PA...and he got us great seats. What's more...the concert was on his own birthday. And he's not a fan of country, concerts, or sexy Australian rockers :)
Keith Urban was truly amazing! I love how he interacts with his fans, pulling up a local girl to sing with him and giving a signed guitar to a young boy in the audience. I love that he goes all in for his concert, obviously exhausted by the end because he pours so much into his performance. I love his songs. Plus, I love his accent and tattoos.
I definitely have some writing inspiration now for the sexy men in my romance novels :)
Thanks to my husband for willingly paying to take me to ogle my country man crush. <3
Five years ago today, I walked down that aisle, said I do, and walked into our life together. My hands were shaking, and the aisle looked so long. We'd prepared for the day for months, but in reality, we'd prepared for years. That day was a long time coming. From the second I saw you in that 7th grade art class, I knew there was something special between us.
As the years passed, we celebrated so many milestones of growing up together. Walking down the aisle, I'd already known you for over a decade. We'd laughed together, cried together, fought with each other, and threw in the towel. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we were ready... sort of.
That day, nothing was perfect. The deejay lost power. I almost put your ring on the wrong hand. My dress straps almost came undone and your mom had to patch them before the reception. My bustle was all wrong, and the cake crumbled when we cut it. There were lots of "oh nos."
But we didn't care. We were bound together by some simple words, a white dress, and a magical day. We were wrapped up in the sheer joy of the moment, in the connection we had, even if everything wasn't quite right.
Now, looking back over the past 5 years we've had, I know the wedding was just the beginning. Over the past 5 years, we've had so many more moments of sheer joy. We've stood together, built a life together, been through so many more milestones. We found an apartment and bought our first furniture. We laughed at one of our first dinners because a friend brought a bottle of wine and we didn't even have a corkscrew. We celebrated first holidays and made new traditions. We bought a house, a dog, and collected quite a few cats along the way. We chased dreams, chased careers, chased passions.
We celebrate the little moments, too. We laugh together everyday, sharing in an inside joke from across the room without a single word. We enjoy our lazy evenings on the couch watching Netflix or taking a nap or eating Lunchables instead of cooking. We go to Applebees for appetizers just because we feel like it or buy way too much candy at the grocery store. We play pranks on each other and buy each other chocolates and sing crazy songs to drive each other nuts.
It hasn't been perfect, of course. We've shared in some rough moments, too. The inevitable, "life's not fair" moments have snuck up on us. We've mourned lost opportunities, lost pets, lost moments. We've had hurt feelings. We've hurt each other. We've been tired and broken and exhausted from this thing called life.
Still, the good definitely outweighs the bad. I'm thankful we've had the past 5 years to figure out who we are together. I'm thankful to have 5 years of amazing married life. I'm thankful to have a man who will support my crazy endeavors, whether it's going to a school musical to support the district I teach in or driving three hours in the pouring rain to sell books for my writing career. I'm thankful for a man who, even on my worst day, can make me laugh, can say what I need to hear, can tell me the truth others won't. I'm thankful to have a man who isn't afraid to laugh at himself, at life, and find joy in the simple things.
Just like our wedding day, things aren't perfectly glamorous. We live a simple life, perhaps even an ordinary life.
Still, on the anniversary of our wedding day, I know this life is exactly the life I'm meant to be living, exactly the life I'd choose if I could do it all over again because any life with you is extraordinary in its own right.
I love you. Happy anniversary.
***As seen on The Huffington Post***
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: There IS no secret formula to a perfect marriage because there IS no such thing as a perfect marriage.
Experts divulge ways to ensure your marriage will work. There are plenty of internet quizzes to help you decide how healthy your marriage is. Articles advise what to do and what not to do, making you sweat over the checklists you’re not meeting.These pieces can be fun to read. Sure, they can give you some insight into healthy relationships. But can they help you decode the secret to a perfect marriage?
I don’t think so.
I’ve been married for almost five years, but in many ways, it feels like longer—not because we’re miserable but because we’ve been together for quite a while. I met my husband at the age of twelve, and he’s been my one-and-only ever since. When we said “I do,” we’d been together over a decade. We thought we were going to own this thing called marriage. Challenges? Difficulties? Please. Those were for people who rushed to the altar, not us.
Then we put the rings on and we realized—marriage IS hard. There are plenty of frustrations, stressors, and times when you just feel like tossing your ring into an inferno.
Each marriage and experience, though, is vastly different. The equation for happiness, thus, cannot be generalized. Others can tell you how to make your relationship work until they’re out of breath, but it still won’t work unless it fits your particular circumstance. Our marriages are unique products of who we are as individuals, our past experiences, our relationship experiences, and our current status of connectedness.
Thus, this article isn’t about giving you the top ten secrets to perfect your marriage. This article is about telling you ten things that have worked for my husband and I. Read them, keep a few of them if they suit your relationship, and, most importantly,use them as a springboard to find your own ten ways to improve your relationship.
1. Phone Away Thursdays
On Thursday evenings, we put away all technology and watch a movie together. These few hours a week help us focus on each other and give us a scheduled time during the week to spend time together. In many ways, it’s like a cheap, at-home date that helps us reconnect during the week.
2. Just Spill
I’m guilty of using the silent treatment when I’m mad, but my husband’s helped me overcome this. If I’m pissed about him slacking around the house or if he thinks I was being a jerk to his family, we spill. Being honest with each other and telling each other when you’re mad about little things will prevent issues from escalating. Letting things simmer, in our experience, leads to the irrevocable blow-ups that can damage relationships.
3. Separate Bank Accounts
Our families think we’re crazy for this, but we’ve found separate bank accounts helps us both maintain independence. It started because we were lazy; we didn’t feel like switching our individual direct deposit items or bills to another account. Now, we’ve found it works because we both manage smaller purchases on our own. After coming up with a system for splitting bills, we’ve found we rarely fight about money because we have a sense of independence.
4. Talk about big purchases or decisions
If I’m buying a $20 shirt at the mall, I don’t run it by Chad. If I’m buying a $600 laptop because mine blew up, I do check with him. When he decides to get inked again, he runs it by me. We respect each other enough to get opinions on big purchases and decisions. It’s about maintaining the feeling of teamwork. We maintain our independence in the day-to-day things, but the big things are decisions made together.
5. Recognize the small gestures
The movies and literature tell us romance is in the big, sweeping gestures. We’ve come to realize these high expectations can lead to disappointment and resentment. Routines and budgeting practicalities rule out private jets to secret islands and dozens of red roses. Look for the small things that show you care about each other. This might come in the form of a Milky Way, my favorite candy, when Chad stops to get eggs at the grocery store. It might mean I pick up Krampus at Walmart because I know Chad wanted to see it. Small gestures can lead to big connections, and showing appreciation for these gestures can enhance relationships.
A study by Sara Algoe at UNC-Chapel Hill looked at forty-seven couples who had been together for an average of five years and found that expressing gratitude for small things can lead to big results.
6. Come up with a chore system
Our early fights were about chores. I’m talking vicious, name-calling level fights over dishes and trash duty. We tried doing our own laundry, dishes, and cleaning as individuals. We even tried a chore chart at one point to fix this.
It took years for us to find a balance we could both live with. Do we still fight when we feel like the other person is dropping the ball? You bet. Living in a family where both the husband and wife work full-time can be straining. We both grew up in families where our mothers were stay-at-home moms for at least a good portion of our childhoods. Adjusting to a two-career family, thus, was something we didn’t have a model for. In this area of life, I think it’s just about trial and error.
7. Respect individual hobbies
My husband is a gamer; I am a bookworm.
Sometimes I feel like he spends too much money on gaming. Sometimes he thinks I fill our house with too many books.
Sometimes I feel like he spends too many hours in front of the television playing Xbox.
Sometimes he feels like I spent too many hours with my nose in a pretend world.
Sometimes I get tired of hearing him talk about PewDiePie and Steam. Sometimes he gets tired of me talking about vampires and plot devices.
We don’t share in the same hobbies, but we do our best to respect them. We give each other time to pursue our individual interests. In marriage, you cannot completely let go of your individuality or resentment can form. Healthy couples spend time together and apart.
Exhausted, ticked off, grieving—whatever we’re feeling ,Chad and I laugh together every single day. We have dozens of inside jokes and crazy pranks we pull on each other. Even when we’re in the midst of a tragedy or rough patch, we pull together to find the humor in the world around us. Keeping things lighthearted has helped us find joy together. I know when I’m ripping my hair out from a rough day at work, I’ll come home to him and he’ll make me feel better about it. Our shared sense of humor has helped us stay connected to our youthful, childish sides, which ultimately has helped build our bond.
9. Eat Dinner Together
I can’t cook at all. I’ve burnt everything from spaghetti to pancakes. I’ve created literally inedible concoctions. Thus, I use the term “dinner” lightly.
However, the point is, we sit down and eat together every night. Even if we’re being pulled in different directions for the evening, this grounds us in a half hour together where we’re sharing in a meal. This uninterrupted time together helps us reconnect after a long day, even if it’s just reconnecting through shared laughter over my latest cooking failure.
10. Preserving MemoriesIn high school, we started scrap booking our memories together. From time to time, we’ll pull out our seven different picture books and go back through all of the places we’ve been together. When monotony creeps in, it’s good to be able to relive the moments that make you who you are as a couple. Plus, it can inspire you to get out there and make new memories. Since looking at our pictures and realizing we haven’t been anywhere new lately, we’ve added some trips to our summer bucket list.
As I said, there is no secret recipe for a perfect marriage. It’s about trial-and-error, in many ways. It’s about being self-reflective and realizing what you need to work on and what you’ve got down.
Most of all, it’s about deciding you’re in it for the long-haul—and then finding ways to make the long trip successful, no matter what it takes.
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